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China ponders closing 'outdated' re-education labour camps

Malcolm Moore Telegraph 07/14/2010 05:03
Patients working in a compound at the Kunming Municipal Compulsory Rehabilitation Center in China

Patients working in a compound at the Kunming Municipal Compulsory Rehabilitation Center in China


China is considering closing its vast network of labour camps, allowing an unprecedented public debate over the controversial "re-education" programme.



Since the 1950s, China has used "re-education through labour" to imprison people without trial.

Currently, there are an estimated 400,000 prisoners undergoing re-education through labour in around 310 camps across the country, according to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong NGO.

The camps were originally used in Chairman Mao's era to lock away so-called Rightists, counter-revolutionaries and landlords.

While five to ten per cent of the detainees today remain political prisoners, the camps are more commonly used to house drug addicts, street hawkers, prostitutes and pickpockets. Inmates can be imprisoned at the camps for a maximum of four years.

The abolition of the labour camps has been called for several times by the United Nations and it appeared as if the Chinese government would close them down in 2007. However, they remain in force today.

Inmates interviewed by China Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong NGO, said they had been shackled upside down, electrocuted and forced to work when sick.

Read more in Telegraph...